Monday, October 4, 2010

"Absolutely Crushing Pressure"

Hunter Mahan signed up for this. He wasn't drafted. He didn't get picked randomly out of the PGA Tour phone book and summoned like jury duty.

This is why golfers play the game. This is the price they agree to pay, if they are on the wrong side of destiny.

Mahan had a dance with a lifetime of glory on Monday morning at Celtic Manor. He could have been Justin Leonard, who will dine out until he's old and wrinkled on that miraculous putt at Brookline.

Instead, Mahan has this chip. This chub. This stabbed, feeble finish under golf's most searing pressure.

It will forever live in golf low-light history. It will be on many Golf Channel Top 10 shows.

And no, it is not fair. In the least.

Golf isn't about fair.

He knows this. His teammates do too.

I am an even bigger fan of Mahan now than I already was. I'm even a fan of just about all the golfers on both sides of the draw at this Ryder Cup, and for that matter, past Ryder Cups.

(Okay, for the record, you can have Overton for us, and Poulter for them, if you must know. The rest, I'm cool with. Even Cheetah. But just barely. Anyway...)

I am in awe, and appreciation of how these guys can operate under such golfing heat. What happened in the final hour on Monday morning was nothing short of absolutely crushing pressure.

Hell, just look at that photo of Mahan, post chub!

That sea of eyeballs, staring at him, the collective hushed silence of 40,000 fans, must have sucked the oxygen out of the entire Usk Valley.

Anybody who has ever taken back a golf club in earnest, knows the sensation of "somebody is watching me hit!"

In fact, it is probably the FIRST feeling of nervousness a beginner to the game experiences. Golf is so much about not looking foolish in front of other humans, that when more people are watching you, and more is at stake, the more your mouth dries to dust, and your hands start trembling like guitar strings.

A foursome on the first tee is waiting behind you on Saturday morning. You nervous?

A small gallery of club members is watching your match behind the 18th green. More nervous?

Perhaps you are playing in a college tournament, and now there are a hundred or so people watching you. Still nervous?

Of course you are. This never goes away. Not even for grizzled tour pros.

Now, imagine being there in Mahan's spot. LOOK at all those eyeballs! If a single set of eyeballs can impart pressure on a human being trying to deftly strike a round white pellet with a crooked stick - then imagine 40,000 eyeballs!

Those collective eyeballs are enough to melt a bronze statue, much less a human being.

Graeme McDowell was up to the moment. But it could have easily been the other way around. Props to him, and the Euros.

But props to the men who put themselves in this golfing arena, for our visceral enjoyment.

They volunteered for this. Glory or infamy.

Great show, lads. Great exhibition. The game of golf, the game of a lifetime, was a winner again.

See you in Medinah, in two years.


  1. The Ryder Cup is such a great event. I always clear that weekend when it comes around so I can watch.

  2. Stewart Cink shows lots of guts...I bring this up because Cink had a very makeable 12 footer to win his match and couldn’t deliver. That ½ point cost the American’s the cup…If Cink were a man, at that moment in the press conference he would have shouldered the fact that he did not deliver in the clutch and that he was just as responsible for not winning the cup.

  3. I've been waiting all week for your RC comments. What a crazy weekend from "raingeargate" to Sunday blowout to Monday thriller. I'll be honest that when I watched my first thought was "choke" and that the Americans just don't care as much as the Euros - not enough heart. But watching that press conference where Mahan couldn't get out 2 words without crying and Phil grabbing the microphone to take the fall as a team changed my mind. Europe may show more emotion but they all want it just the same.

    To rantler above - everyone pointed out that it was a team loss and Mahan wasn't to blame. Cink specifically talked about what a champion Mahan was to be in that spot and how less than 10% of golfers would want to be there. Furyk (rightly so) admitted he barely contributed and that they lost it by only scoring 1/2 point on Sunday. So don't think the players aren't reflecting on every miss. I'm sure Fowler is replaying over and over not his winning putt but pulling the ball out of his pocket in the foursome match & losing the hole.

    Overall it was a fun ride - only wish the finish was on Sunday vs Monday so I could watch live at home and not on my computer.

    See you in 2012!

  4. I've contended for many years that the Ryder Cup is the greatest single sporting competition on the planet, bar none. Sometimes, like this year, it even exceeds expectations. The importance of this event to these golfers is extraordinary. Kudos to the U.S. for their amazing comeback yesterday. Too bad we have to wait 2 more years to see this again.

  5. Great post- dead on about the pressure. mahan wasnt going to get a half either way- McDowell was parring that hole.

    Still think Rumeal Robinson had more pressure on himself than anyone in sports history.

    Dan in DC